Formed in 1967 in Bolton (that's near Manchester for those who are not familiar with British geography) under the moniker of Ways 'N Means, the band that was to become Iron Maiden in 1970 was essentially composed of three musicians who are at the heart of the whole story, namely:
Ian Boulton-Smith ("Beak"):
Lead and rhythm guitars
Bass & Backing vocals
Drums & Lead vocals
Obviously, mostly due to the fact that drummers aren't usually supposed to sing – just listen to Nicko's version of "Age Of Innocence" to convince yourself! – the band hired several singers for this duty, only to keep Paul as the lead vocalist in the end, thus being one of the first rock outfits to use a drummer as a singer. A few other musicians contributed to the saga of the Bolton Iron Maiden, most noticeably Noel Pemberton-Billing, who arrived as a replacement for Beak when he shortly left the band in 1974, then later took the bass when Derek left.
For those who like to make parallels, this band has written many songs that could be linked to Iron Maiden (the famous one) songs, both in the titles and in the lyrics. They even had a song called "Running Free", which was sadly never recorded.
The career of the Bolton Iron Maiden was, sadly, short-lived, as Beak passed away in 1976 due to cancer. This album, authorised by Steve Harris's Iron Maiden and its management (thanks boys that was very kind of you!), was released for the 30th anniversary of Beak's death, and the benefits of its sale will be forwarded to the British Cancer Research.
THE BOLTON IRON MAIDEN: Paul O'Neill – Derek Austin – Ian Boulton-Smith ("Beak")
With a fairly simple but very efficient riff, 'Cracked Path' is an excellent Blues/Rock opener for this album. The story seems to be that of a space traveller who unwillingly returns to Earth and is not particularly pleased about it, having been to a "place of extraordinary light" that he seemed to enjoy very much. Could this also be a metaphor for someone high on drugs who finally returns from his "trip"? In any case, the song rapidly became an audience favourite, which is quite understandable, as it really rocks.
This song was started by Paul from an inspiration by the Dutch Prog Rock band Focus and by his insomnia. As he stood in the living room of the pub he lived at in Atherton – waiting for night to fall and looking across to the railway line half a mile away – he could see the darkness sort of creeping along the disused line.
The music is extremely good and inspired, with an interesting instrumental part at the end. The lyrics are pretty dark and broody, and tell us of a man whose time is mostly spent waiting for darkness to fall, triggering all sorts of reflexions about life. The railway line can be considered a metaphor for a life that has come to the end and that is being swallowed into oblivion by the creeping darkness. This is somehow reminscent of another song that quite rightly says: "All of our lives, covered up quickly by the tides of time."
Cell Debris (Boulton-Smith, O'Neill, Austin)
This is a Derek-inspired idea. During a writing session, Derek was relating the story of his visit to the doctors because of excessive 'floaters' in his eye. In his comedic semi serious voice he commented "….no they are not floaters" he stated proudly "this... is cell debris in my eye!" The band just had to make it a song with a title like that. The story recounts the memories and reverie of a man, married many happy years, whose wife has just died, and, as he stands before the grave, many happy memories flood back, and the fear of his own mortality.
Red Sky (Boulton-Smith, O'Neill, Austin)
During a twist in time a boy is accidentally sent back from 2583 to 1963 but came with the knowledge and science of a man of 2583 – all children at that time are infused with adult knowledge. Making full use of this advantage he decides to take over the world!
This is a nice little science-fiction song with an interesting line that will remind any Maiden fan of "Killers": "Someone will feel the wrath of my knife tonight." It seems that the "man" Ma is referring to is no one else but the little boy himself. Some sort of murdering evil genius...
A Place Of My Own (Boulton-Smith, O'Neill, Pemberton-Billing)
This Noel song came about from the opening simple bass line, which Beak interpreted in his own inimitable style. The lyric is a throwaway, but reflects the hardness of people found around them. Beak and Noel had been offered a job with 60s band, The Swinging Blue Jeans, Paul was not happy and this lyric sort of expresses his frustration and desire for a more settled existence.
Exchange Is No Robbery (Boulton-Smith, O'Neill, Pemberton-Billing)
An idea of Noel's; not exactly science fiction but plenty weird anyway. This is the story of a broken-hearted man who loses the only love of his life, and decides to commit suicide. The strange bit is when you realise that the story is being related by the dead man's ghost. The ending with the echo was supposed to signify his ascent to heaven.
Derek was very into West Coast rock especially bands like New Riders of the Purple Sage and Grateful Dead. This was their own attempt to emulate that sound and feel.
The lyrics are about a man who loses the love of his life by his own fault. Sounds cheesy? Just wait 'til it happens to you...
Life Span (Boulton-Smith, O'Neill, Pemberton-Billing)
Another of Paul's songs. This had been knocking around for a long time, and was first recorded on a cassette by Paul as a 'sketch' but not quite right until Beak came up with the new exciting riff that opens the song. As it turns out this song was quite prophetic... considering what was to happen less than a year after this was recorded.
A song about life and love, stressing how empty and cold the former can be without the latter. Does considering that life is a game make it any easier? According to the Bolton Iron Maiden, it seems to work. In any case, this is a nice little rocker.
A simple song about being on the road "...something our band knows very little about" commented Derek at gigs. Short, but efficient, this is a very nice little Blues/Rock number.
The Naughtiest Girl Is Alive And Well (Boulton-Smith, O'Neill, Pemberton-Billing)
As the title suggests a song about what ever happened to Enid Blyton's The Naughtiest Girl – Well... according to The Bolton Iron Maiden, she became a prostitute of course! This song is based around Noel and Beak's riff. Noel and Paul decided when this was played live Beak should do a guitar solo, but unlike his other solos, they both buggered off stage and left him totally on his own. This is the only live recording of this, and it shows he did quite well!
With a brilliant intro, this is a fairly long song whose topic is somehow reminiscent of "22 Acacia Avenue", about a whore who's being loved by the story-teller.
This live version of "Crawl Crawl Night-Time" was recorded at the Victory Hotel of Bolton on 10th October 1974. It is slightly longer than the studio version, with an extra guitar solo.
Maiden Flight (Boulton-Smith, O'Neill, Austin)
Written by Paul on a train journey from London to Bath to visit Sue and based on HG Wells's The Time Machine (a favourite of all three members). This tells the story of a man who travels both forward and back in time, and is accompanied in his travels by a faithful (mute?) friend (An idea from Clifford D. Simak's short story Desertion) "Maiden Flight" was to have been the title of the first album, if they could only get a deal – something that sadly never happened.
Yet another fairly long song, this live version features solos by each instrument, showcasing the excellent musicianship of all players. The time-travelling subject of the song will remind many Maiden fans of "Caught Somewhere In Time"... yet another coincidence? Probably.